Max D, Motion Graphics, Jeremy Hyman and Co La's experimental jazz group releases a strong second LP.
Four years on, Lifted return with 2, which sharpens the group's experimental instincts, making the music within even less reliant on loop-based composition. The ensemble seems especially free on "Now More Than Ever," where pearlescent chords mingle with melting synth voices and haphazard drum rolls. It's messy one moment, lucid the next, but the swing between these poles is unlaboured, almost conversational. The group rides another wobbly, to-and-fro groove on "Blackpepper." Its stalking bassline and chaotic polyrhythms are accompanied by tangled digital effects, including what might be email notifications or Xbox chimes.
The joy of freeform, improvised music like this comes in transient moments. The players approach a nice idea, engage it for a bit, then figure out how to get to the next one, not unlike schmoozers at a drinks reception. But 2 is more comparable to an intimate house party. "Purplelight Wish," for example, starts with nettly bass and percussion—imagine a series of slightly awkward handshakes—and cheerful, cross-talking riffs. But as the rhythm gradually ebbs away, the trombone, keyboards, synths and electric piano—played by Bass Clef, Will DiMaggio, Repetentes 2008 and Jordan GCZ, respectively—huddle together as if in hushed agreement.
Other notable collaborators include Beatrice Dillon, who plays balmy, dream-sequence synth on the lovely "Mirror In My Room." That track, along with "Rose 31" and "Near Future," is the easiest to get along with. "Rose 31" is brightly lit by mellow flute, woodwind and sax, with an uncomplicated drum pattern shuffling along underneath. The latter nods to both ECM and Chain Reaction, with dewdrop piano, played by Motion Graphics, falling amid gently struck hi-hats, cymbals and some air-bubble sloshes of dub techno. 2 sounds alive even at its most laidback.
Even on the combustible "Total Cure," 2 oozes a casual, offbeat warmth. It's no coincidence that this quality is also central to the work of many of the artists involved here. While less spiky overall than, say, Georgia's last LP or Afrikan Sciences' Circuitous, two other experimental full-lengths informed by jazz, 2 has a similarly probing spirit. In a way, Lifted feels like a natural home for producers like Field-Pickering and Motion Graphics, whose music has often shown the ambition to escape the same old patterns. On 2, Lifted run circles around them.